We’d like to present a bit of a recap of the recent milestones in the administrative process of the proposed Arnold Irrigation District Infrastructure Modernization project and provide some pertinent information about what our opposition effort has planned going forward.
We, like most of you, were made aware of the District’s plan to pipe 13-miles of the main canal over two years ago and attended the first public meeting at Elk Meadow Elementary school where we were introduced to AID’s environmental consultant Farmers Conservation Alliance (FCA) and treated to their lip service and question-dodging skills for the first time. We, like many of you, submitted our public comments to the Preliminary Investigative Report on the proposed plan and then heard nothing more about it for two years until AID’s draft Environmental Proposal was published on June 8, 2021.
Upon reading the draft EA a few important concerns became apparent and remain so: 1-our public comments had been largely dismissed; 2-costs to property owners caused by the pipe project (reduced property values, loss of trees & vegetation, impacts to wells and impacts to wildlife) were ignored; 3-other viable alternatives to piping were summarily dismissed or were simply not explored; 4-the plan’s treatment of the flume portion of the canal offends the legal protections of the federal Wild and Scenic River Act and Oregon Scenic Waterway Act.
On June 23, many of us attended a public comment Zoom meeting hosted by AID and FCA to address questions and discuss concerns of the proposed pipeline. The results were in line with previous interactions with AID and FCA in that their answers were vague or misleading. It was clear that while not guaranteed to make a difference, our submittal of as many public comments of opposition as possible would be our next best step in opposing this plan. A few of us requested and received an extension to the public comment period, which pushed it out to July 23, 2021.
As a testament to all your efforts in this public comment outreach endeavor, follow-up with the FCA and the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), who oversees this administrative process and controls the federal purse strings for the proposed project, has revealed that over 400 public comments were received. Gary Diridoni of the NRCS said that while it usually takes two to three months to analyze public comments for a draft EA, he estimated that the analysis phase for this EA “…Could take three to six months because we’ve never had this many public comments before.” Good work everyone.
We are now in the interim period between public comment and a decision that will be made by NRCS about how the project will move forward or not. The likely possible decisions that could be rendered are: 1-AID and FCA are directed to revise the draft EA and re-submit it for another round of public comment (the revisions could include changes to the flume plan and/or exploration of alternatives other than piping); 2-AID and FCA are directed to produce an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which is essentially an EA on steroids that must take a deeper dive into the concerns specified in our public comments (this process could take up to 4-years according to NRCS); 3-NRCS issues a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), which green-lights the project as defined in the EA for commencement into further design and implementation.
Decisions 1 or 2, above, would be “wins” for our opposition movement as they force some degree of change to the plan as it stands now, and might open the door for collaborative solutions that help solve the challenges of maintaining water levels in the upper Deschutes for threatened and endangered species habitat and ensuring farmers have water for crops–without the extreme costs of piping.
Decision 3, above, would be a failure of our efforts to change the trajectory of the current proposal, but this final judgement on the part of the NRCS would also serve as the procedural trigger for any lawsuits to be filed against NRCS initially and subsequently filed against AID. There is no opportunity for legal action against these entities until a decision of FONSI is made.
Our group, Save Arnold Canal, has been meeting regularly and working in partnership with the Pape family team to promote thoughtful media coverage of the issue and explore our options for possible collaboration with the AID board of directors to enable a change in tack. The family, who own several parcels that touch the main canal totaling roughly 200 acres, have been involved in this issue for two years, and their concerns about this flawed plan are the same as all of ours.
Save Arnold Canal is currently evolving into a legally formed nonprofit organization and is working toward transferring the legal representation of Brian Sheets (BRS Legal, Ontario, OR https://brs.legal/) from individuals in the group to representation of the whole Save Arnold Canal group. He has been involved since late June and has represented clients in a similar situation to preserve the Pilot Butte Canal in the Central Oregon Irrigation District where they were successful in stopping piping. We are preparing for litigation in the case of a FONSI decision.
We will have details soon for how those of you who will be directly impacted by this proposed piping project and who oppose it can get involved as a plaintiff. What has been shown to be important in cases like these are large numbers of plaintiffs who are invested in the process, rather than folks who may be opposed but remain sitting on the sidelines. Our goal will be to make group membership for legal representation low-cost and simple so that we can create as much impact in our favor as possible.
In the meantime, we are focused on educating as many of our friends and associates about this complex issue as possible. A few of the important things to know are:
—Water that seeps into the groundwater from the canal sustains an ecosystem and wells (over 500)…it’s not all bad
—There are less costly ways than piping to reduce seepage to protect Deschutes habitat and help farmers
—This plan will not ensure better drought resistance for irrigators in Arnold Irrigation District nor improve their water delivery over what they have now
If you’re interested to learn more about the proposed project and what should be done instead of piping the Arnold Irrigation District main canal, check out the website www.savearnoldcanal.org and feel free to send any questions or comments to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The founding members of Save Arnold Canal
Bill Calder, Rhonda Coleman & Ralph Emerson, Liz & Mark Elling, Carol Guptail, Alan Keyes, Geoff Reynolds, Deb & Jerry Rudloff, Ruby Swanson, Rosalina Wong
Before it enters the main canal, the water passes through an historic elevated flume along the banks of the river, including Lava Island Falls, a popular world class kayaking destination. Arnold Irrigation District proposes to bury the flume and construct a road on top of it that would be a mile-long eyesore visible from the River Trail along the west bank of the river and will possibly deposit massive amounts of construction material into the river, illegally altering the river’s right channel.
This earthen dam-like monstrosity along the federally protected Wild and Scenic Upper Deschutes River would be visible to hikers along the river, residents on the west bank and visitors who stay at Seventh Mountain Resort. The heavy equipment used to bury the flume would cause other collateral damage to wildlife habitat and private property as well.
We are concerned that Arnold Irrigation District owns over 7-acres of riverfront property adjacent to their flume project area, directly across the river from Widgi Creek Golf Course yet it fails to disclose its plans for this property and how their modernization project might enhance its value.
This proposed project is screaming for an Environmental Impact Statement.
Here is a video showing plans to bury the flume portion of the Arnold Canal near Lava Island Falls on the Wild and Scenic Deschutes River.
While there is an urgent need to conserve irrigation water to maintain more water in the upper Deschutes for threatened species habitat and help struggling farmers, piping causes a massive amount of collateral damage. Piping completely eliminates seepage that infiltrates into the ground and shallow aquifers. As has already been seen after other piping projects (Swalley and Tumalo Irrigation Districts) have been completed, nearby wells have failed and are having to be re-drilled at owners’ expense. Any trees that have become habituated to the 115-year-old seasonal water source will die after piping–not to mention the thousands that will be cut down to clear the pipeline’s construction area. AID has no idea what habitat and migration changes will be forced on wildlife that use the canal corridor, but simply hoping for the best is not a responsible plan.
There are several alternative solutions to piping that address all of these issues. A variety of canal lining technologies would substantially reduce seepage but allow enough to replenish groundwater to minimize negative impacts to wells, keep trees and vegetation alive and allow wildlife access to water. It would maintain an open canal to allow emergency pumping of water in the case of a wildfire. It would save thousands of trees that help offset greenhouse gasses. It would cost 200 to 400 percent less than piping.This video explains the problems with piping and better solutions that are available.
Simple, common sense solutions like canceling or reducing winter-time stock runs (where the canal is run at full volume for several days to benefit only a few irrigators and the excess is poured out into a field at the end of the canal) would hold back a sizable volume of water for improved Deschutes flows. Delaying the start of the irrigation season past the still night-freeze-prone date of April 15th and shutting down the season sooner than the typical October 15th end of operations could save massive amounts of water when it’s not as needed by irrigators. Exploring the non-structural and policy solutions of water banking, aquifer management and water rights legislation could all yield substantial water savings.
Starting to solve our broader water resource challenges starts with people, not piping. Piping is a politically convenient, knee-jerk reaction that will cost taxpayers over $40 million and do more harm than good. It’s time that Arnold Irrigation District stopped avoiding Deschutes County residents and its own patrons and came to the table to find a collaborative way forward that works for all parties.
It’s easy to measure the height of your trees with your arm and a stick.
First, measure the distance from your eye (or forehead) to your finger tips with your arm extended at eye height. Mark a stick at that length (or break it to length if it’s too long).
With your fingers, hold the stick out in front of you with your arm fully extended. The stick should be vertical and the mark or broken end held at eye height.
Walk away from the tree until the tip of the stick lines up with the top of the tree and the bottom of the stick lines up with the bottom of the tree. Try to keep the mark at eye height and rotate your eyes rather than your head when lining up.
The distance from your eye to the base of the tree is equal to the height of the tree. Pace off the distance from where you’re standing to the base of the tree. Multiplying the number of steps by your step distance equals the height of the tree. Golfers will know the exact distance quickly. If you don’t know your step distance, calibrate your steps by counting your paces while walking for a known distance (the width of your house for example). Your step distance is the distance walked divided by the number of steps.
Excepts from “The Arnold Project” Toni Rae Linenberger Bureau of Reclamation History Program Denver, Colorado Research on Historic Reclamation Projects 1996
Originally, the Deschutes River was known by the Klamath tribe as, Kolamkeni Koke, or “place where the wild root kolam grows.” Many years later Lewis and Clark, referred to the river by another Indian name Toworenhiooks after sighting it on October 22, 1805. On their return trip the river was renamed Clarks River in honor of William Clark. A little more than a decade later the river was again renamed, this time essentially for good. When the area was trapped by French-Canadian fur traders, the river’s proximity to the falls of the Columbia River earned it the name Riviere des Chutes, or River of the Falls. The French place name was then shortened by the following generation of English-speaking pioneers into what we know the river as today, Deschutes.2
After the Civil War the Deschutes River Basin was settled primarily by ranchers who then used the Deschutes grasslands as pasture for their cattle during the summer months. The ranchers were succeeded by the timber men, who proceeded to make Bend, Oregon, the logging capital of Central Oregon. Between 1893 and 1908, a number of private ditch and irrigation companies claimed water rights from the Deschutes and its tributaries. The work of the ditch and irrigation companies prompted a shift in the local economy. The emphasis went from ranching to farming with the introduction of water. All of the local irrigation efforts succeeded in bringing state and Federal attention to under-irrigated Deschutes County. In 1914 and 1922 comprehensive surveys of the Deschutes Basin were released, by the State of Oregon and the Federal Government, most notably the United States Reclamation Service (USRS) in 1922. The second survey resulted in a $500,000 Federal appropriation for a storage works located at Benham Falls, eight miles south of Bend. After meeting with Arthur Powell Davis, then Director of the USRS, the land owners rejected Reclamation’s plan because under the province of the Reclamation Act all land over 160 acres would have to be sold at the government appraisal price.3
Even without federal help, small irrigation efforts were well underway. In 1922, the North Unit Irrigation District under terms of the Carey Act, which allowed for state supported irrigation efforts, built the Crane Prairie Dam. Located southwest of Bend, Crane Prairie is a log-crib, rockfill dam. The dam was responsible for irrigation of 40,000 acres in the Central Oregon, Arnold, and Lone Pine irrigation districts. Crane Prairie Dam was troubled by leaks and due to poor financing repairs were obstructed.4
The present Arnold Irrigation District was first organized as the Arnold Irrigation Company on December 27, 1904. The organization became official when incorporation papers were filed with the State of Oregon on January 9, 1905. In addition to the Arnold Irrigation District, three other small irrigation companies, the Pine Forest Ditch Company, the Bend Company, and the North Irrigation Company, diverted water through the main canal. The three irrigation companies were later absorbed by the Arnold Irrigation Company. Water was diverted from the Deschutes River a few miles south of Bend, Oregon, through the Arnold Canal for the lands to be irrigated south and east of that city.
The Arnold Diversion Dam is a wing type dam, which extends a short distance into the river from the east bank. The main structure of the distribution system is the one-mile long Arnold Flume which connected to the Arnold Canal. Originally, the main Arnold Canal was seventeen miles long, however since rehabilitation it has been reduced in length to about eleven miles. At the diversion, the Canal has a capacity of 120 cubic feet per second. The Project lands are served by approximately twenty-five miles of laterals.5
The canal system was built so that water could be delivered to lands selected by the stockholders; the result was an extended canal to serve scattered farms. The Deschutes River Decree of February 10, 1928, by the Circuit Court of Deschutes County, as modified by the Oregon Supreme Court, allotted to the Arnold Irrigation Company a diversion right of 150 c.f.s. for irrigation of 9,392 acres. Not all this acreage was under cultivation, however. Longtime residents on the Project estimate the maximum area under irrigation at any one time was about 5,000 acres.6 In 1960 there were 3,416 acres under irrigation rotation out of a total of 4,292 acres eligible for full irrigation service.
The Company was reorganized in 1936 as the Arnold Irrigation District (AID) and it assumed all obligations and accounts of the Arnold Irrigation Company.7
2. Lewis A. McArthur, Oregon Geographic Names, (5th ed.), (Portland, Ore.: The Press of the Oregon Historical Society, 1982), 218-9.
3. Denver, Colorado, National Archives and Records Administration: Rocky Mountain Region, Records of the Bureau of Reclamation, Record Group 115, “Annual Project History, Deschutes Project,”, Vol. 1, 1938, 7-8; Norman Delmar Kimball, The Impact of Economic and Institutional Forces on Farmer Adjustments in the NorthUnit Deschutes Project, (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Oregon State University, Corvallis, 1961), 16
4. Kimball, 1.
5. Project Data, 11.
6. Denver, Colorado, National Archives and Records Administration: Rocky Mountain Region, Records of the Bureau of Reclamation, Record Group 115, “Annual Project History, Arnold Project–Oregon,” Vol. 1, 1952-1960, 1.
If you wonder what the Arnold Irrigation Districts plans to bury the Historic Flume will look like, here are two animations to illustrate the damage to the Wild & Scenic Deschutes River.
The AID proposal is to build an Oregon State spec. road on top of “engineered fill”. In places the fill and road will be over 18′ high. Some of the material will wind up in the river and all of the road will be completely visible to river rafters, kayakers, fishermen and hikers along the Deschutes river trail.
They are not even planning on doing an Environmental Impact Assessment claiming there will be no impact.
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AID pretends to frame their proposed 13-mile piping project as a fish and threatened species habitat conservation effort—it’s not. This is AID’s federal funding money-grab designed to line their pockets and their out-of-state pipe supplier’s at severe cost to homeowners, the local environment and the upper Deschutes Wild and Scenic Area. Water losses to seepage are a big problem for the AID canal and reducing seepage would enable the District to keep more water in Wickiup reservoir to improve upper Deschutes habitat and help transfer water to farmers… BUT there are other ways to reduce seepage that don’t come with the extreme costs of a pipeline.
The list of problems with a pipeline is long:
–The historic flume near Lava Island Falls will be piped and buried like an earthen dam with a road on top, possibly altering the right channel of the river and leaving a monstrous visual scar to be seen from the River Trail.
–For owners abutting the canal (430), this will mean enduring a 7-year construction project extending an alleged 50’ right-of-way from the canal edge into their yards, a massive reduction in property values, a loss of many mature pine trees, other vegetation and the loss of wildlife that rely on this 115-year-old canal for water, habitat and travel.
–All residents in the 13-mile project area will be affected by the 7-year construction corridor and the loss of wildlife in the area as well as by new and unknown forced migration patterns of wildlife seeking water. And we all know that dead and dying vegetation, plus heavy equipment equals increased fire danger. –Owners in the broader area with wells can expect those to dry up and have to be deepened (if they meet code) or re-drilled entirely at the cost of $40/foot—average well depth in Bend is 500’.
What should be done instead? How do we save water, help farmers and improve threatened species habitat in the upper Deschutes?
Line the canal to greatly reduce seepage—don’t pipe it. Leave the historic flume alone, it’s not the problem. Consider non-structural solutions like water banking, on-farm improvements, winter stock run reductions & irrigation season modifications.
There are a variety of different lining techniques that greatly reduce seepage for the sake of keeping water in Wickiup reservoir but they don’t stop seepage completely, like a pipe does. This kind of “engineered seepage” serves everybody’s (and the canal ecosystem’s) interests with very little downside.
–Shotcrete and grout-filled-mattress style canal lining is durable, inexpensive (way cheaper than AID’s outlandish cost claims in their E.A.) and they’re aesthetically pleasing. They’re already used in many spots on the Arnold canal.
–These techniques can be applied by local providers, improving our local economy.–They’re time-tested! Arnold Canal’s test segments of these lining styles between China Hat Rd. and Highway 97 have been in place for 30-years, are cited as successes in canal lining studies worldwide and are still in great shape–but Arnold Irrigation District claims they’ve “failed.”
Why won’t Arnold talk about their plans for the flume? Because they think they can sneak it by you. Why won’t Arnold talk about canal lining? Because the big, lazy money comes with the pipe, period. They’ve even hired a so-called environmental consultant that pumps out Environmental Assessments and other pro-piping analyses like a puppy mill but partners with a 3.5-billion-dollar corporation in California that does…guess what? Installs the pipe they want to replace our canal with.
Starting in 2022, the scenic and ecosystem-sustaining Arnold Canal could be filled in. Consequences include:
• Negatively Impacting Groundwater Wells • Destroying/Damaging Trees and Vegetation • Destroying Wildlife Habitat • Property Damage, Dust and Noise During Construction • Reducing Property Value
This seven-year, $42 Million project will help few and harm many.
Not even AID’s irrigating patrons are confident that the pipe will improve their water delivery–there isn’t enough elevation drop to support a pressurized delivery system and many of AID’s delivery issues are on their laterals system, not the main canal.
There are alternative solutions! But there can be no discussion until this “All Or Nothing” steamroller of a proposal is stopped.